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Sports Canadiens’ Kotkaniemi still has top-six potential, according to scouts

23:15  01 february  2020
23:15  01 february  2020 Source:   sportsnet.ca

Canadiens' Jesperi Kotkaniemi shows some pugilistic skills

  Canadiens' Jesperi Kotkaniemi shows some pugilistic skills For a 19-year-old who had never been in a fight before in his life — on or off the ice — Jesperi Kotkaniemi handled himself very well. The Canadiens centre took exception to linemate Ryan Poehling being checked from behind into the boards by Robert Hagg during the third period of Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia. Kotkaniemi went after the 24-year-old Hagg, dropped his gloves and lay a beating on him, throwing some right-hand bombs that would have made former Canadien Chris “Knuckles” Nilan proud. Nilan actually tweeted out a video of the fight afterward and wrote: “Well done Jesperi Ko-tkaniemi”.

The Montreal Canadiens drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall a year ago. MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 06: Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) calls for a pass during the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens game on April 06, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC

Jesperi Kotkaniemi . Montréal Canadiens / NHL - 19/20. A smart forward with a dangerous shot, Kotkaniemi possesses a high hockey IQ and determination with the skills to back it up. You need to have EP Premium to view these stats. Sign up at the top of the website.

a baseball player wearing a red shirt: kotkaniemi-canadiens© Graham Hughes/CP kotkaniemi-canadiens

MONTREAL — When I think about Jesperi Kotkaniemi, I think of Joe Thornton.

Not Joe Thornton, the grizzled future Hall of Famer who is just two points shy of 1,500 in the NHL (though we’ll get to him shortly), but 18-year-old Joe Thornton, who played 55 games with the Boston Bruins in his rookie season back in 1997.

That Joe Thornton was a frequent healthy scratch that season. That Joe Thornton had three goals and seven points, topped 10 minutes of ice-time just nine times, and played less than five minutes in four of his final five games of the year.

As a sophomore, Thornton returned to Boston and, in a limited role, put up 16 goals and 41 points. And I do recall there being some conversation about him potentially being a bust as a first-overall pick in the ’97 draft. I definitely recall there being a lot of questions swirling around about whether or not the Bruins were doing him a disservice by playing him in the NHL so young.

In the Habs' Room: All-Star break coming at bad time for surging Montreal

  In the Habs' Room: All-Star break coming at bad time for surging Montreal “A rest is always good,” Carey Price says, but the Canadiens’ bye week might be coming at the worst possible time. Montreal has some momentum with four wins in their last five games after Saturday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights at the Bell Centre. “We’re moving in the right direction and, hopefully, we get some healthy bodies back in the lIneup,” said Nick Cousins, who led the Montreal offence with his sixth and seventh goals of the season. “We have to come back and play the same way.” The Habs, who don’t practise again until next Sunday afternoon, must avoid the letdown they experienced after a shorter break around Christmas.

The Montreal Canadiens drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick in the NHL draft on Friday Kotkaniemi is Europe's seventh-ranked skater according to NHL Central Scouting , but it With his skill, size, and smarts, Kotkaniemi has the potential to be a No. 1 center that all teams covet.

If the Montreal Canadiens choose to select Jesperi Kotkaniemi third-overall at the NHL Draft, it With the Montreal Canadiens in dire need to add top -level talent at that position, it seemed like a According to McKenzie, several scouts have valued Kotkaniemi above both Zadina and Tkachuk.

It’s the same conversation people are having about Kotkaniemi’s situation right now, which has been amplified by Saturday’s announcement that the kid is being sent to the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket. Much of it is (predictably) of the revisionist variety—that the Montreal Canadiens shouldn’t have drafted him, that they shouldn’t have started him in the NHL, that they shouldn’t have kept him in the NHL and so on.

How quickly people forget that the Canadiens, barren at the centre ice position, had a chance to get the consensus best centre at the 2018 draft and took it; that it wasn’t an off-the-board pick as Kotkaniemi’s stock soared in the months leading up to his June selection; that the Canadiens didn’t expect him to be on their team last season but he forced his way on with a remarkable training camp; that he put up 11 goals and 34 points—or just under five times as many points as Thornton had in his rookie season—as the youngest player in the NHL; that he started his sophomore season still as one of the youngest players in the NHL, and with a groin injury that lingered through November and eventually sidelined him; and that he suffered a concussion at the beginning of December.

Canadiens survive a nail-biter after surrendering an early 3-goal lead

  Canadiens survive a nail-biter after surrendering an early 3-goal lead The Canadiens have had difficulty winning at home, but they avoided another disappointment Saturday as Tomas Tatar scored the shootout winner to give the Canadiens a 5-4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights at the Bell Centre. The Golden Knights rallied from a 3-0 first-period deficit to cut the Montreal lead to one goal, but Dale Weise found Nick Cousins on a 2-on-1 rush at 7:40 of the third period. That gave Montreal a 4-2 lead, but it wasn’t enough to seal the win as former Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty scored his 22nd goal with a shade less than two minutes to play, and Reilly Smith scored with 7.5 seconds remaining in regulation time to send the game into overtime.

The Hockey Central at Noon crew discuss Montreal Canadiens rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi and what they expect out of him this season and in his career? Is he

Kotkaniemi is still working his way back from a concussion, and although he's been skating recently, there's no clear timeline for his return. The 19-year-old pivot is on injured reserve, so his activation will be the best indicator that his return is imminent.

In the lead-up to Saturday’s decision—a decision that appeared to be looming for some time—we surveyed three professional scouts who watch the Canadiens frequently about what they believe Kotkaniemi will become once fully developed. On the condition of anonymity, they responded.

"I don’t know his situation off the ice, so I can only go on what I’ve seen from him on the ice," said the first scout. "He’ll be a top-six for sure. With his size, and his skill, that’s what he’s going to be. I like his vision, too.

"The thing with him is people are always going to say they should have maybe taken Tkachuk. But everyone knew Tkachuk was probably the most physically ready prospect in the draft and I think he’s eight or nine months older than Kotkaniemi." (Tkachuk was born in September 1999, Kotkaniemi in July 2000.)

Here’s what the second scout said: "I thought watching him last year that he was for sure going to be a No. 1 centre. Now I think he’ll be a good No. 2."

In the Habs' Room: Kovalchuk keeps proving his worth with Montreal

  In the Habs' Room: Kovalchuk keeps proving his worth with Montreal BUFFALO — A solid defensive effort over the final 50 minutes of the game allowed the Canadiens to add to their impressive road credentials this season as they defeated the Buffalo Sabred 3-1 Thursday night at KeyBank Arena. The Sabres dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, outshooting the Canadiens 9-0 and taking a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Jack Eichel. But the rest of the game belonged to Montreal. “The first 10 minutes were where we really struggled,” coach Claude Julien said. “They were playing us tight and killing plays in the neutral zone.

Kotkaniemi was benched for most of the third period and had a season-low 7:56 time on ice in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks, Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette reports. During his post-game press conference, coach Claude Julien mentioned Kotkaniemi letting his player go on a couple

Kotkaniemi has gone from one of the most underrated players in the draft to a kid everyone wants. At only 17-years of Age, Kotkaniemi has already finished a full season of professional hockey in Finland’s top league. Not only is he already playing professional hockey, he is doing so at a level that

And the third scout said: "He needs to fill out, get stronger, get some confidence and he’ll be fine. I think they needed a centre pretty badly when they took him, and he’s going to develop into a pretty good one. Top-sixer for my money."

None of them said Kotkaniemi is the second coming of Thornton, but there wasn’t a single one who suggested his experience to date will ruin his development.

As we know now, Thornton’s early experiences certainly didn’t have the effect on him most assumed it would.

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And here’s what Canadiens coach Claude Julien said when he was asked to explain the decision to demote Kotkaniemi to the AHL at this stage.

"We don’t look at these things as negative things, we look at these things as positive things," Julien said before Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers. "That’s the problem here; we always look at the negative instead of the positive. And right now, it’s about a kid who’s had a couple of injuries, hasn’t quite found his game, is probably losing confidence too. So, we want him to gain some confidence, we want him to find his game. So, there’s nothing negative about that. I think it’s more positive, and that’s what we need to see."

With just six goals and eight points through 36 games, playing in a limited role with the Canadiens this season, it was time for a different approach with Kotkaniemi.

The team’s outlook about the player hasn’t changed, and it hasn’t been ruled out that he’ll be back in Montreal before long.

"He’s got great potential and that hasn’t changed since Day 1," said Julien. "I think he’s had a rough start, like some players have in different teams in different years, and they start off with some major injuries or some injuries that set them back and they never seem to get their rhythm going again. And I think as a young player you don’t want him losing his confidence, you want him to find his game back and the best way to do that is to go down there, play a lot and regain your confidence, and then when you do we’ll be more than happy to throw you in the lineup and put you where you belong in the NHL."

Canadiens’ need for size boosts case to keep Kovalchuk at trade deadline .
It is Ilya Kovalchuk’s size, in combination with his skill, which provides the most relevant case for the Canadiens to keep him in Montreal instead of trading him away at the Feb. 24 deadline. The post Canadiens’ need for size boosts case to keep Kovalchuk at trade deadline appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.The Columbus Blue Jackets blueliner denied the diminutive Montreal Canadiens forward a lane to the inside of the ice, bodied him off the puck and sent the play rushing toward the other end of the rink.

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